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Empanadas

Empanada with ground meat

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas!

We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished!

An empanada (or empada, in Portuguese) is a stuffed bread or pastry baked or fried in many countries.  The name comes from the Galician, Portuguese and Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.

Empanada Cherie

Posting Date:

September 27, 2012

Download printable file HERE

Cutting up portion size of the empanada

Empanadas were, for me, the first time into that experience of trying a new thing, and it was a very good challenge to be met.  Empanadas are very easy to make.  Here, the recipe is suggesting to use the ‘oven pan’, as the pan to make the empanada and I found the idea very smart.  Each normal oven comes with an ‘oven pan’, you know that black square or rectangular pan that just sit at the bottom inside the oven and that most of us, never use?  Well, here is a good way to use it, finally!

Looking inside

The filling of an empanada could be made of anything, even with sweet apples or other fruits.  The idea here is to use a bread dough as a bottom layer and a top layer.  The inside could be either meat, veggies, cheese or fruits.

Portion of the empanada

Empanadas could also be made by rolling out the bread dough, cutting out circles and folding half of the circle over the filling.

Ground meat filling for the empanada

In this particular empanada, I used just a plain ground meat and tomato sauce filling.  The meat is beef and the tomato sauce is plain spaghetti sauce.  To the sauce, I grated some strong old cheddar cheese just because I had some left over in the fridge.

Rolling out the bread dough

To ease up the rolling of such a big piece of dough, I used two piece of parchment papers to help me here.

Cooking the meat

Any meat could do here.  And you can also mix in the veggies of your choice.  Here, I used green peppers, mushrooms, red onions and herbs.

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Candy thermometer

Candy thermometer

I have finally made the move into buying myself a ‘candy thermometer’, a real one that actually works beautifully and that was very cheap in $$.

Yep, this is it.  I made my regular chutney this morning using this thermometer and following direction to the ‘jam’ temperature of 219F and conclusion?  Wow…

My candy thermometer

My chutney came out just the right consistency and not burned at all.  This kind of thermometer is very easy to use, just push the ‘on’ button and do the reading.

Chutney

My chutney boiling hard

Chutney boiling hard

My fido jars…. I just love them!

My fido jars

Stop by this other chili chutney  also…

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Paella

Our Daring Cooks’ September 2012 hostess was Inma of la Galletika. Inma brought us a taste of Spain and challenged us to make our very own delicious Paella!

Posting Date: SEPTEMBER 14, 2012

Download the printable .pdf file HERE

Paella with chicken

Cooking the paella

The rice

The meat for the paella

Adding rice to the meat mix for the paella

Paella made with only chicken and using sweet paprika spice for the red color

 

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Olive oil crackers

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers!

Olive oil crackers piled

Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

Posting Date: July 27, 2012

July’s challenge is all about crackers! Crackers are something I particularly like making because I find it an uncommon practice these days.

Olive oil crackers tumbling down

Most people think I am crackers for going to the trouble but delight when given the opportunity to taste them. Making crackers also allows you to avoid the additives that make store bought crackers last for years and they make wonderful hostess and parting gifts.

Cracker PDF file here July_2012

Olive oil crackers here it comes

Two different crackers recipes must be prepared using two different methods of forming. Hand rolling and ice box rolling (log of dough in the fridge, cutting into shape later on).

Olive oil crackers been processed

Olive oil crackers the rolling down

Those olive oil crackers would be great served with a hot soup, as they are salty and we can taste the olive oil very well in them.

Olive oil crackers in the making

Because I did not have a pasta maker, I did the rolling by hand, as thin as possible.  The result was great but could have been thinner.

Olive oil crackers beautifully displayed

For my hand rolling crackers, I did Olive oil crackers, pretty simple to do, turned out very good and crispy!

1 1/2 cups of flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup olive oil

A mix of herbs for the toping

Mix all ingredients together and roll out with a pin.  Cut out into shapes and bake at 450F until golden, turn the crackers over and bake for an additional 10 minutes.  The longer the baking time, the harder they will get.  In this recipe, I used Tarragon herbs and extra salt for the tops.  They were very good.

Now for the ice-box method, I made a Butter Tarragon crackers.  They were wonderfully flavors with butter which game them that amazing taste and crispy texture.

Butter tarragon crackers

Great crackers those one made with butter.  I love butter!

Butter Tarragon crackers wrapped in plastic

At this point, the logs could be frozen for few months and take out when needed.  Because they are made with butter and sugar, they keep very well.  This particular recipe will yield many many crackers…

Cutting out the crackers after 12 hours in the fridge

Baked Butter Tarragon crackers

Butter Tarragon crackers ice-box:

350 gr flour

4 gr salt

14gr white sugar

226gr butter

60 to 120 ml cold water

Dry tarragon leaves

Mix all ingredients by hand, form into one ball and up in the fridge for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, roll the dough in little logs, wrap them all in plastic wrap and back in the fridge for 12 hours.

The day after, remove the logs from the fridge, unwrap and cut them into little circles, as thin as possible.  Place on an ungreased baking sheet, bake at 375F until golden, turn over and bake for an additional 10 minutes.

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Sweet and sour baked soya beans

Recipe here

The oestrogens in soya somehow modulate the sharp rises and falls in oestrogen levels that women experience throughout their reproductive lives, by binding themselves to oestrogen receptors in breast and uterine tissue. When oestrogen levels fall, as they do during menopause, soya’s oestrogens raise them. When they are too high, as in women suffering from endometriosis, its plant oestrogens are able to lower levels.

Baked soya beans with pork fat

It is thought that a diet rich in soya can blunt hormonal surges at certain times of the month, which are thought to play a role in the formation of breast tumours.

Soya contains a family of plant oestrogens named isoflavones. As well as modulating human oestrogen levels, isoflavones have been shown to inhibit the growth of tumours.

Soya bean washed, soaking for 12 hours in water

In China and Japan, where women consume between 20 and 50 milligrams of isoflavones each day (compared with 1mg a day in the West), breast cancer rates are very low, with between 19 and 33 cases per 100,000 women, compared with 68 to 81 cases per 100,000 here.

One tablespoon of dumpling vinegar in 8 cups of unbaked beans

Here is my own recipe, one that was based from the one mentioned at the top of this posting, but I did bring some modification to the original :

8 cups of dry soya beans

Wash the beans well, drain the water and put the beans in a large bowl.  Fill the bowl with clean water, up to 1 inch above the beans.  Let it sit for 12 hours.

Drain the water, discard any discolored beans and put the beans in a slow cooker.

Baked soya beans

Add pork meat, cubed, salt and pepper.  Let it cook until soft, about 4 to 5 hours.

Follow the process in the original recipe.

For 8 cups of beans, I used 1 1/2cups of sugar, 6 tablespoons of soya sauce and one tablespoon of dumplings vinegar.  I then, let it cook for another 2 hours.

Those beans are so good.  The amount of sugar can be adjusted with more or less.  Taste the baked beans before you are done cooking them.  The soya beans will keep very well frozen, in small containers.

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A sign of Springs season on the step

China is a country that not too many outsiders know well.  Everybody has something to say about China but not too many outsiders have actually been here.

Oh, there are those that just came, saw and went back with a book full of adventure and pictures and there are those that, like me, have stayed and live here.

To me, China is amazing.  A country  full of good people, great culture and traditions.

Both my parents have passed away.  They are very present as positive energy in every daily task in my life.  We have a tendency to pay attention to negativity more than happiness.  We need to smile more and those pictures below will make my parents smile:

Snow here, plums trees there

No. 1: The diversity of the season, from the north of the country to the south.  China is very big, with snow and bitter cold during the winter months from one end to plums trees, ginger trees to the other end.

Picking Peeking duck in Beijing

No. 2: The roast duck at the Dadong restaurant in Beijing… The headless ducks hang from black hooks, ready for the brick ovens. Eleven Chinese cooks in dark pinstriped pants handle them with long poles, with a grouping of little porcelain ducklings looking on. The dining room of this restaurant is rowdy, as Chinese restaurants are supposed to be, and the braised eggplant is sweet and good. The skin of the lean bird is crisp, and its meat — wrapped in a thin pancake with spring onions and a sweet dark sauce — washes down nicely with red wine or beer.

May day Family day in China

No. 3: The history, the story to tell, the tradition to pass from parents to children.

Ladies playing musical instruments in ZhongShan Park, Shenyang, China

No. 4: The diversity of food sold at every street corners.  Such abundance and availability are new here.

Strawberries picking with Easter bunny

No 5: Shopping, a never-ending story here in China.  Anything is available and I really mean Anything!

Saturday morning street market in Shenyang, China

Taylor market

No. 6: The spices here, so different in flavors and in diversity, it is an adventure to cook with these.

Spices and little IKA glass jars

No. 7 : Tai Chi reduce stress and offer other health benefits  In Shenyang, we see the locals people in the park every single day, weather permitted of course.

Tai Chi in the park this morning

No. 8 : The gathering of senior people, sharing stories, traditional games and music.

Music, story telling, games

No. 9 : The seeds, the plants, the nature, those aspects that local people are working hard to keep alive and to grow everywhere.

Seeds from trees, May 2011

No. 10: The dumplings… oh yes… the dumplings… That food is just out of this world.  I went to two culinary courses just to learn how to make those little pockets filled with meat and veggies, boiled in water and then served with a spicy soy sauce.  Just amazing.

Dumplings made at the Traders hotel

and the ever utensils to eat here…

Soup spoon and Chopsticks holder, in form of a dragon

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White pizzas

Healthy food : just go away… I do not like to have a ‘million ingredients’ to cook and to bake.  Proper food is what I need in my kitchen, come on here, just eat with passion and love this planet.

Make a pizza with your own personality, and with pleasure.

What do I like about pizza?  There is no CLASS about this food.  Oh, I can produce a very ‘flashy’ pizza for people up there and I can produce pizza for kids.  The recipe will be the same.

When you are sensitive, you cook.  Have you ever notice that?  The best recipe ever you have come up with is when you were sensitive!  Cooking is all about feeling.

So on that ‘emotion’ moment, today, yet another Friday here in Shenyang, China and I am making Pizza.  But not any kind of pizza, this one will be done entirely with ‘white’ ingredients.

I was watching Jamie Oliver the other day.  He was doing some kind of cooking using a bechamel sauce and I came up this morning with the idea of doing an entire pizza with white ingredients only.

Thin crust or thick crust is the question here.  I prefer very thick, almost like a bread, pizza and my husband prefers the thin crust.  This is what is wonderful in making homemade pizza.  It is cheap to make, you need very little ingredients,  The versatility of it is endless. Just one rule of thumb here:do not get carry away and put tons of ingredients on top (like I have a tendency to do…).

Thin or thick will result in the thickness when rolling and pulling the starting dough.  To get a thin crust, roll in very thin.  To get a thick crust, roll it very lightly or even better, do not roll it at all and use your fingers to stretch the dough.

The cheese escaping the crust

Baking: turn your oven blasting hot, to the higher degree you can obtain (no to broil here), but to the highest degree.  My oven goes up to 500F I believe or something close to that.  If you can get a pizza stone to put your pizza on to bake, your stone will get the inside of the oven temperature even hotter and the pizza will take less time to bake.

Brown crust underneath the pizza

The underneath crust will be very crusty if using a stone.  I do not have a pizza stone but what I do is I set the middle shelf of the oven, to the very bottom of the oven and bake the pizza on a piece of aluminium foil.  The aluminium will conduct the heat to a higher degree and give the underneath pizza dough a very nice crusty flavor.  The thin pizza is always bake this way here in my house.

The cut

For the thick pizza, I just bake it to the higher degree of the oven, on the middle rack  in a regular pizza pan or a cookie sheet.  Prior to putting the pizza in the baking pan, I drop some flour all over the pan and then place the pizza on top.  The flour will prevent the pizza to stick to the pan and also will give the underneath crust a nice brown color.

White pizza with cheese

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